ARM: Review - Miniart 1/35 scale Valentine Mk. I with Crew

Kit Review: Miniart 1/35 scale Kit No. 35116; British Infantry Tank
Mk. III Valentine 1 w/Crew;
695 parts (643 in grey styrene, 54 etched brass) ; retail price US
$72.00
Advantages: beautifully done model of this widely used Commonwealth
vehicle; interior parts for turret and driver=92s compartment; now also
provides new, more useful figure set and interior section for the
radiator and transmission compartment
Disadvantages: Single link tracks will be tedious to assemble; getting
very expensive
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Commonwealth armour (with a u) fans
As previously noted, the Valentine was one of those tanks that
managed to provide both reasonably good performance with relative
reliability, and as such was used by the Commonwealth as well as
provided to the Soviets under Lend Lease. I leave it to true
historians of British armour such as Peter Brown to provide a more
detailed history of the vehicle, as most of my knowledge of it is
based on Russian sources. ( I have freely added Peter=92s comments based
on serious research in the National Archives at Kew and the Tank
Museum where appropriate.)
However, checking my resources shows that the Valentine was evolved
from the earlier A.9 and A.10 (Cruiser Tanks Mark I and II) when the
need for a better infantry tank arose and those designs morphed into
the Christie-suspension fast tanks. Manned by a three-man crew
(driver, gunner, and commander) it was armed with a 2-pdr main gun and
a 7.92mm Besa machine gun. Powered by a 135 HP AEC bus engine, it
provided reasonably good service and became the progenitor of an
entire line of tanks, ending up with a 75mm gun tank powered by diesel
engines. Roughly 300 Mk I versions of the tank were built in 1941.
While people like Peter can explain more of the detail differences,
the early model Valentine tanks Marks I and II were both similar and
in some cases nearly impossible to tell apart. Very early tanks had a
=93mag wheel=94 (my term, as it looks like it was styled by the folks who
did the famous Cragar S/S wheels in the 1960s) which later became a
smooth wheel design. The external brake bulge in the drivers was
enlarged early in the production run and also the original narrow A.9/
A.10 type tracks were exchanged for a choice of two wider cast track
links. Also at some point a pistol port was added to the left side of
the turret. It also comes with the later model drivers with enlarged
brake drums.
This new kit adds a number of parts associated with the Mark I tank
but most of the Mark II kit ones are still present. This includes a
set of the previously noted =93Mag=94 wheels as well as the smooth left
turret side to replace the pistol-port one. It still comes with the
more aggressive pattern cast tracks found in the Mark II kit.
The kit retains its desert oriented fender skirts and mudguards, but
from what I can see this tank was generally not used with them. It
comes with two different mantlets (one =96 part D5 =96 is for another
version of the tank as the directions do not indicate it is optional).
The kit provides a very complete and complex 2-pdr gun with slide-
molded barrrel and a very detailed Besa and breech assembly for the
interior of the turret. Note that while the gun and a complete No. 19
Wireless Set (with etched brass =93cage=94 parts) are provided no seats or
crew =93comforts=94 are provided. (Peter indicates for an early Mk I this
should have been the earlier No. 11 set with a single antenna on a
folding mount at the back of the turret.)
The driver=92s position is relatively complete with controls, panels,
and seat, and both hatches may be posed open to show it. However, none
of the crew members are posed to fit it.
The suspension is not as fiddly as the VM one was and does a nice
representation of the variant of the =93Slo-Mo-Shun=94 suspension used on
Vickers designs. The small road wheels come with separate fronts and
backs, and the large ones are in two parts with a separate tire. This
is neater than some other options. Each driver consists of six parts
to get the proper look. Even the springs =96 molded parts - are nearly
flash and seam free. (Note that there are comments on the Internet
that the wheels are underscale and not properly spaced, but for the
most part they look fine when installed except to the extreme
purist.)
However, each side takes 98 track links and these are small and come
from sprues; cleanup and assembly will be tedious so prepare in
advance for an evening or two on those. The good news is that the
tracks fit well once the =93nubs=94 are cleaned up, so at least none of
them require the even worse filing and fiddling to assemble. Based on
my experiences with them it would be a good idea to make a jig from a
section of scrap plastic and a thick section of strip; this permits
accurate horizontal and vertical alignment and making sections of 10
at a time for easier final assembly. The main thing here is to use a
slow-setting plastic cement that provides flexibility for final
adjustment during fitting to the model. (Note that the Canadian built
ones used a high level of manganese in the tracks; they do not rust
but acquire a brown patina through oxidation, so bright red rust
finishing is not correct).
The rest of the model is pretty straightforward. One word of warning:
this kit is closer to the Tristar efforts in that it requires precise
fit and trimming to get the parts in place; =93that=92s close=94 will not
work and cause a lot of frustration. I failed to get a clean assembly
job on the turret hatch covers of my Mark II (same turret roof and
hatches) by not paying attention.
All of the covers and shrouds on the engine deck are separate parts
(again unlike the VM effort) and will give a great deal of depth to
the finished model. This one provides a complete radiator and
transmission assembly for the rear of the hull with optional position
radiators and hatches.
Note that etched brass parts are integral to the kit and thus require
mandatory use; sorry DML fans, no options. These include brackets for
the muffler guard, wing nuts for tool holders, and other tiny items.
The photo etched parts are not backed by card as many other companies
provide to ensure flat shipping, but are coated with adhesive film on
both sides which seems to work well in protecting the parts.
The tank provides the =93Heath Robinson=94 spring loaded antiaircraft
mount for the Bren antiaircraft light machine gun, which consists of
six parts. Oddly enough, the directions then show the Bren gun (which
comes with a drum magazine and bipod) attached to the turret roof
rather than hanging by a strap from the mount. Go figure. There is
also a nice six part turret antenna mount.
The figures provide an officer tank commander and four other ranks
as
=93tank riders=94 (also offered separately as Miniart Kit No. 35071). This
time the officer has a =93tin hat=94 with headset and microphone (provide
your own wires) but all are in the =938th Army=94 short sleeve shirts and
shorts with tall stockings. Three men carry Enfields and one has a
Bren gun.
All figures are standard =93six part=94 types - head, torso, arms and
legs =96 with add-on kit and helmets. Poses are good and detailing is
nicely done.
The directions come in a lovely booklet and are much more expansive
than DML efforts (whose style they seem patterned on) and result in 61
total steps to construct the model. However, like DML the figures are
reduced to =93stick here=94 diagrams on the last page and =93paint like the
box top=94 like instructions. I wish companies would take more time in
their figure directions as while experienced modelers have few
problems newer ones most certainly could use some help.
A color booklet with finishing directions is provided for seven
different vehicles, alas, per Peter most are apparently Mark II tanks
(which look just like late production Mark I tanks, so fear nought):
White 8, 4th RTR, 22nd Armoured Brigade, 10th Armoured Division, Egypt
1942 (sand overall - Mk II; should have sand shields fitted);
=93Manchester=94, C Company, 40th RTR, 23rd Armoured Brigade, July 1942
(sand overall - Mk II); =93Artist=92s Prince=94, unknown training unit, UK
1941 (black over dark green - Mk II); Unknown training unit, UK 1941
(black over dark green, T16043 - Mk II); 8th RTR, 23rd Armoured
Brigade, Libya, December 1942 (sand, black 1 in triangle - Mk II);
=93Harry II=94, 8th RTR, 1st Armoured Brigade, Libya, June 1941 (=93Caunter=
=94
scheme, red 9 in square - Mk II); 1st (65th) RTR, 16th Armoured
Brigade (Polish), Scotland, August 1941 (dark green overall, T1290248
with full coding - Mk I). Peter Brown warns me that most of these may
well be for Mark II tanks and not Mark Is.
Overall, while pricey this kit provides more options than previous
ones and according to Peter with a few tweaks can be built as a Mark
I, II, IV, VI or VII. But it does provide a number of options and a
set of five new and useful figures, so it is not that far outside
current price ranges. But if you want a true and accurate early Mark
I, plan on some track swaps and new markings.
Thanks to Bob Lewen for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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AMPSOne
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